The Bible : The Complete Word of God (Abridged) 2003

Thursday, 13 February, 2003

The Reduced Shakespeare Company who present the wonderful zany show “The Complete works of William Shakespeare (abridged) ” have turned their abbreviated hand to the Bible to present “The Complete Word of God (abridged)” in just one hour and 15 minutes.

Of course there is plenty of rich material here for a group of ‘over grown’ students who seem to be permanently trapped within their university days, forever pulling stunts and poking mindless irreverent fun at icons of society. Of course one of the great icons of America is the Bible -an icon which an alarming number of Americans still take as literal!

The Reduced Shakespeare Company parodies both the contents of the Bible and the minds of fundamentalists who believe that everything in the Bible is true. But with such a wealth of material to play with they do quite a poor job. We have jokes about Jonah living in Swansea (Wales), Eve owning a computer (an apple) and of course David’s ‘Triumph’ was heard throughout the land.

There are some amusing bits, which I must admit had me laughing out loud, such as Abraham asking God if there is anything he can do for him? Jehovah replies, “Yes, give me the foreskin of your penis”, delivered in a booming voice that one always associate with a divinity. The deadpan faced reaction of Abraham as he suddenly realises that he is worshipping a fruitcake had me in stitches. But such comic timing and delivery is rare and sadly missing, much of the show consists of sketches such as Noah singing his version of Old McDonald had a farm with audience participation. We also shockingly discover that Jesus was not really a miracle worker but a second-class magician who knew how to make handkerchiefs disappear- a sort of divine Tommy Cooper.

We have such a great collection of silly stories in the Bible, such as the miracle of God making the sun stand still in the heavens for 24 hours, or God sending bears to consume small children because they called the prophet Elijah bald. One wonders how much research The Reduced Shakespeare Company put in to the show as some of the more bizarre and lesser-known bible absurdities are completely ignored. One gets the impression that the show was quickly put together on a rainy Sunday afternoon, by a group of over grown kids who where playing truant from Sunday school.

The members of the company performing this evening where Richard Lynson, John Schwab and Michael O’Connor. Whilst all three were engaging, Michael O’Connor clearly stands out as the genuine funny guy. The few times I did laugh out loud it was always in reaction to his bemused and astonished facial reaction to the bible stories he is trying to relate to the audience.

The show does have some funny moments and the energy, charisma and just plain silliness of this trio of actors certainly keep one entertained. However, the quality of the comic material makes the idea of reading the Bible from cover to cover, sound more attractive then having to watch the show a second time.

Alan Bird

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